The amount of non-cash payments in China in the third quarter declined for the first time, according to a central bank report released Tuesday.
The amount of money involved in non-cash payments, including commercial papers and bank cards, was about 157.3 trillion yuan (22.97 trillion U.S. dollars) in the third quarter, down 8.3 percent year on year, according to the People's Bank of China.
The first-ever fall was a proof of a less active economy, as the country saw its third quarter growth slow to 9 percent, the slowest pace in five years.
The central bank said the biggest drop, without giving the exact number, was reported with the use of commercial papers, which are more often used by small and medium-sized enterprises.
Transactions made with bank cards continued to rise, with the amount of money involved up 4.1 percent in the third quarter from the same period last year. But the growth rate was 58.8 percentage points lower than last year's figure.
The use of bank cards, instead of cash, continued to be more popular among consumers. The report said transactions using bank cards, excluding large commodities like real estate and wholesale purchases, took up 25.7 percent of the country's total retail sales in the third quarter. The figure was 1.8 percentage points higher than in the second quarter.
The average spending on each bank card was 592 yuan in the third quarter, up 0.7 percent than in the second quarter, and spending for each transaction was 1,435 yuan, down 8.7 percent than in the second quarter, according to the report.
Tuesday's report also said the use of credit cards continued to spread quickly despite a slowdown in economic growth. As of the end of the third quarter, more than 130 million credit cards had been issued, representing a year-on-year increase of more than 70 percent.
In the meantime, outstanding credit on these cards reached 891 billion yuan, up 70.9 percent year on year, and the credit figure was 3.5 times that of the end of third quarter in 2006.